Shaarei Shamayim

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This has been a momentous week. Just yesterday, Jonathan Pollard—convicted of spying on behalf of Israel when he informed Israel of Iraq’s nuclear program which it then destroyed—walked out of prison after 30 years, much longer than anyone has served for a similar crime. And the Obama administration—in what appears to be a mean-spirited move—did not allow him to go to Israel as requested.

And just yesterday French Special Forces were dispatched to Mali to assist in the rescue of 138 at the Radisson Blu Hotel who were taken hostage by about a dozen terrorists in a hail of gunfire shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” as they killed some and terrified the rest. At least 27 people were reported dead after Malian and French commandos stormed the hotel.

The day before, Thursday, was the most lethal day in Israel since the beginning of the current tide of violence that began a couple of months ago. 5 people were murdered: 2 stabbed to death in Tel Aviv and another 3, including a Palestinian passerby, were killed in a combined shooting and car-ramming attack in the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion. Among those killed was Ezra Schwartz—an 18-year-old American yeshiva student—who was delivering food to lone IDF soldiers.

And of course, this past week saw the aftermath of the horrific attacks in Paris last Shabbos with suicide bombings and mass shootings at several locations in Paris. The attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II—killing 130 people with an additional 368 wounded.

The aftermath of these attacks was most telling. A teacher in a Jewish day school in Marseille, Tzion Saadon, was stabbed by 3 men—one of whom wore an ISIS tee shirt while shouting anti-Semitic obscenities.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström reflected the opinion of many European as she said only hours after the attacks, “To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East in which…the Palestinians see that there is no future; we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

Are you kidding Margot? Syrian and Iraqi terrorist murder and maim in France because Palestinians have been given a bleak choice by Israel? Seriously?! Are you also saying that terror is not to be condemned but understood, mitigated and mollified? Even if it were true that the terrorists were motivated by the plight of the Palestinians, does this excuse terrorizing innocent French citizens who had no connection whatsoever to the conflict? 

And the next day, in an even more outrageous statement the official Palestinian Authority daily al-Hayat al-Jadida blamed Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, suggesting they were orchestrated by the Mossad in order to undermine new European moves promoting a Palestinian state and providing for the clear labeling of produce from Israeli West Bank settlements: “It is not a coincidence that human blood was exploded in Paris at the same time that certain European sanctions are beginning to be implemented against settlement products.”

Bill Maher’s popular HBO program “Real Time with Bill Maher” was being shown live last Friday night just when the news of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris started to spread across the globe. At the time, no one knew much of what happened, but Bill Maher knew right away who was responsible. He said: “Bombing ISIS over there is what is causing the Paris thing to happen. That connection needs to be made.” So, the fact that France has been trying to stop ISIS from its barbaric assault on humanity—killing, beheading, gassing, raping, enslaving, displacing millions of people—that’s what caused the Paris terror attacks? Who is then responsible for the massacre of 130 innocent people in Paris? The French, they brought it on themselves!

What Bill Maher expressed is nothing new. It’s called “blaming the victim.” We heard it at 9/11…who was to blame for the destruction of the Twin Towers? America…because of its colonialism, imperialism, culture…you name it, we brought it on ourselves. 

Yes, blame it on the victim! That’s what Laban did in Today’s Torah portion. Laban was the father of Rachel and Leah—2 of our 4 matriarchs. And yet, Laban is considered one of the most evil people. Why? Jacob came to live with him to escape his brother Esav who had threatened to kill him and falls in love with his daughter Rachel. He works 7 years to marry Rachel and is tricked and given her sister Leah instead. He agrees to work another 7 years for Rachel—such was his love for her. Jacobs works another 6 years for himself and Laban tricks him again and again—changing his wages 10 times from speckled sheep to spotted sheep to sheep with rings.

Finally he’s had enough and he packs up his family and heads back home to his father’s house. On the way Laban catches up to him and accuses him of theft: “You stole my heart, you have stolen from me and you have stolen my goods…You have taken my daughters captive, you have denied me my children and grandchildren and you have deprived me of the opportunity to send you all off with gladness and mirth.” (Gen. 31:26-28)

Of course, Jacob had never done any of this. It was Laban who had done evil to Jacob. It was Laban who had switched Rachel for Leah…it was Laban who deprived Jacob of his fair wages…it was Laban who lied, cheated and swindled Jacob. But it was Laban who managed to blame it all on the victim. The word “Laban,” or lavan in Hebrew, means “white,” clean and pure. But backward it spells naval, “despicable.” He did despicable things while making you think it was your fault while he remained clean and pure.

Blaming the victim is so sinister. We will never stop rape if we blame it on the women victims. We will never stop ISIS and Islamic extremism if we believe we have brought it on ourselves. Tragically, many—like Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and the Palestinians—are guilty of this kind of warped, “blame the victim” thinking—especially when it comes to the people of Israel. If only those rotten Israelis would pull out of the West Bank as they did with Gaza, the Islamic State would not shoot up the streets of Paris. What’s the real cause of ISIS and radical Islam? Israel, of course!

For the past 2 months Israel has been falsely accused by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Because of this, Palestinians plunged knives, rammed their trucks and shot at innocent Israelis. France then proposed at the United Nations that international observers take over the Temple Mount to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli over-reactions and reprisals. There was no mention of terrorism, no mention of knifings and no mention of Palestinian calls to destroy the Jews…no, just blame it on the victims!

Roger Cohen, in a column for the New York Times this week writes, “Oppressed people will do such things. They are vicious crimes against innocent people but it makes them understandable.” It makes them understandable? It’s understandable why 2 Arab boys—13 and 15—took knives and stabbed a 13 year old Jewish boy leaving a candy store on his bike? It’s understandable that a Palestinian will go up to an 80-year-old woman in Petach Tikvah and knife her in the back with such force that it cuts several of her inner organs and threw her to the ground, breaking her hip? Would it be understandable if that was Roger Cohen’s mother?

Is it understandable that last week Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his 18-year-old son, Netanel, were murdered in cold blood on the way to an event celebrating his daughter’s wedding? After the car drove off the road and crashed, an ambulance was called. A Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance was 1st on the scene but when it became obvious that it was Jews who were attacked, it just drove away. Is that understandable?

Is it understandable—as this line of thinking goes—because the Jews are building settlements and occupying Palestinian land? My colleague Rabbi Mitchel Wohlberg asks: Well, let me tell you, Mr. Cohen: India and Pakistan are occupying Kashmir. Tibet is being occupied by China. The Western Sahara is being occupied by Morocco. Part of Cypress is being occupied by Turkey. And yet, the people in those places are not going around stabbing and shooting and driving over innocent human beings. Don’t blame it on the Jewish people when a 4-year-old child goes on Palestinian television and says he wants to be an engineer when he grows up, so that he can make bombs to blow up Jews. A society that produces that kind of child can be called many things, but it certainly cannot be called “understandable.” Don’t blame the victim! 

Having demonized Israel for years, perhaps now Europe will understand they face a common enemy that wants not only Jerusalem but Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid. Israel has a lot to offer Europe as the only existing and positive model of a democracy dealing with Islamic terrorism and overcoming it. The alternative is Belgium which has become a factory of suicide bombers and jihadists in the heart of Europe.

Giulio Meotti, in a piece in Israel National News yesterday wrote: To Europe I say: zero tolerance for incitement, the software of terrorism…For years, Israel denounced hate speech as fertilizer for terrorism, but Europe was always deaf and even funded the Palestinian textbooks full of anti-Semitism. To Europe I say: zero tolerance for incitement, the software of terrorism. Words kill…

        The defense of a country cannot be achieved only on the battlefield, with arrests and controls at airports or bombings in Raqqa. It also means maintaining your values...this is what Israel does. Not Europe, which adopted suicidal multiculturalism.

Maybe now 130 dead in Paris can bring Europe and the Jewish State closer. Israel can teach the world how to balance the values of freedom while remaining safe. One can only hope and pray they will be open to it. Amen!

                                                Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis

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